Band of Horses' Americana sounds like the Flaming Lips hauling Crazy Horse around in an old Studebaker. Only their vehicle breaks down along the coast for a campfire in the rain. Frontman Ben Bridwell (ex–Carissa's Wierd) delivers everything with a high-lonesome ache, as if there's an irreparable rift between him and his Southern roots. The band, which features ex–Carissa's Wierd bassist Mat Brooke and ex-Crutches members Creighton Barrett and Rob Hampton, follows suit by saturating everything in twangy reverb like they're inside a sepia-toned photo dipped in LSD. In fact, the reverb is so thick that Bridwell's words are lost in the echo, but it doesn't matter. His lyrics are more expressions than explanations; it's okay that half the time you have only a vague idea what he's singing.
Most songs on their tour EP build to emotional, Neil Young–style climaxes ("The Great Salt Lake," "Billion Day Funeral") and the band invokes a ragged Elysium, a blissfully abstract prairie where pleasure and sadness play equals. Reaching his highest notes, it's easy to imagine Bridwell grinning ear to ear, eyes simultaneously welling with tears.
Like the very best music, Band of Horses offer an ideal divergence. Even as unpolished live demos, their tour EP is transcendent. They spent August in the studio with producer Phil Ek, and Sub Pop will release the result this spring. Hometown appearances from the Horses are rare, so don't take them for granted. After all, they already won the rest of the country's adoration as openers for Iron and Wine.